aaaa this episode of Polar Bear Cafe features Sasako talking about feeling self-conscious because she’s tall and broad-shouldered
TRANS GIRL SASAKO HEADCANON ACCEPTED
So I was hoping to pound out the third post in that series last night — the one about gender — but I got stuck because right now the exact dynamics of gender in troll society (Beforan too) aren’t quite crystallizing for me yet. And while it was like 9/10 of the way there I realized it entirely failed to make sense of Porrim and her interest in feminism, which is something that the parts of fandom I enjoy really appreciate about her.
Note: I wrote this after having a dessert that involved poaching fruit in wine, with wine reduction sauce, and a glass of wine. What I’m saying is, if it gets weird that’s totally the alcohol and in no way reflective of my baseline thought processes. Really. Swear.
So, trolls, mother grubs, drones and His Honorable Tyranny are all different facets of the same basic species.
You have your Mother Grubs, who lay eggs. The eggs don’t have their own nucleus, so they don’t have their own DNA; thence the evolutionary basis for pairing up two trolls before the bucket o’ gametes is delivered to the mother grub. (Not that the buckets are necessary; that’s a cultural thing). Usually the eggs hatch into trolls.
Sometimes a mother grub wants to make another mother grub; either to fulfill their own base rate of reproduction (you don’t need all that many at any one time), or in response to a recent death. The mother grub’s body secretes special hormone cocktails and all manner of interesting biological shit happens which turns an ordinary, developing ovum into a Matriorb, laden with nutrients and hormone cocktails to support an infant mother grub. Mother grubs and trolls are genetically identical; the differences are down to *expression* and all mother grubs have trolls as their genetic ancestors.
Trolls are descended from a form of alate breeder (freeroaming, winged — like with termites); the species as a whole has long since grown much too large for their wings and the trait has been lost, save for exceptionally rare mutants like the Summoner (who’s flying because magic/psychic powers/whatever, not because wings that size are functional — god tiers fly because it’s iconic and Sburb runs on mytho-logic). They’ve also become the most numerous of all the various morphs, partly because they’re just so darned flexible and can do lots of stuff.
There’s a third morph: drones (His Honorable Tyranny is an exceptionally old, learned, powerful and very large drone). Drones are probably analogous to those super-soldier ants; extra-powerful stayathomes, basically; just who you want around for heavy work or some extra muscle when the neighbors invade.
Okay so this is a drunken tangent, but Alternian society is really troll-centric, innit? We barely even *see* the drones or mother grubs, but they’re obviously critical to the whole thing (mother grubs spawn the entire society and have a whole hemocaste of trolls dedicated to tending and caring for them; His Honorable Tyranny was similarly *the* final word in Alternian jurisprudence, short of the Empress herself). Way before you get the hemospectrum or Alternian gender roles involved, this is a pretty segregated society with role restrictions for significant parts of the population. That blows.
A side tangent: secondary sex characteristics honestly don’t seem to come to much for trolls — the only appreciable difference we see is whether or not breasts are involved. TBH the art style doesn’t exactly call attention to it even when they are present, which is nice, and they’re not hyper-exaggerated like in a lot of mass media. I’d have been happy to ignore it personally (“the author did it subconsciously and you can write it off as a purely stylistic thing”) so here’s a headcanon for those who want it acknowledged:
Breasts are just a pair of endocrine glands that all trolls have which control important hormones. They’re usually small and of no specific gendered significance either way. Big-chestedness mean you’re a) unusual, albeit only in the way that being really tall or having a rare hair/eye color is unusual (it’s a normal thing, just not common) and b) possibly a bit more active and fit than another troll of the same blood color, age, and soforth (this last gets some attention in the social gendering process, because of Alternian ideas about gender roles — more on that in a bit). Different trolls ignore, accommodate or bind as they prefer. For all you know Karkat has an impressive rack he keeps back because they’re annoying!
So yeah, those are the aspects of Alternian developmental and reproductive biology. Presented *without* misleading and connotationally-loaded terms like “male”, “female”, “biologically male/female” and the other claptrap that happens when ciscentric language conflates social ideas about gender and sex role assignment with the actual underlying scientific phenomena. (And I am avoiding using words like “sperm” even when talking about the stuff that fills the pails because it’s amazing how much that colors perception!)
We’ll touch on gender, and gender identity, in the next post.
So, I want to explore transstuck and especially how trans identities might apply to trolls (for ficcish purposes). And because I am a longwinded interdisciplinary dork, there’s gonna be some lengthy headcanon-establishing fits in the process. Which will be recorded here.
The first big question on my mind is, why do trolls have gender at all? From a Doylist perspective the answer is simple: “Andrew Hussie decided to gender the characters before deciding that they were aliens, and moreover seems to have some basically normative ideas about gender, sex, society — I mean shit, Skaia is supposed to be a world of infinite possibilities but this fictional universe literally encodes binary gender roles into Sburb’s game mechanics, complete with culturally specific associations like passive/active as female/male traits.”
I think the proper response to this is, “why do humans have gender at all?” but that invites way more “ooh ooh I know!” answers from evopsych/biotruther types, and folks who’ve never studied up on their anthropology but *just know* it has to do with “human nature”, whatever that is. And I am intensely disinterested in that sort of thing, but I also can’t say as my understanding of the topic leads me to feel like I know the answer so on some level we’re just gonna have to go with the fact that humans have gender (which is partly performed and partly social and partly personal and partly experienced and probably partly a whole buncha other things), and for whatever reason so do trolls. And sometimes, both humans and trolls run into weird shit around social expectations, role assignment, culturally-ingrained assumptions and perceptions, and the way they relate to their own bodies.
So, abandoning the question of “Why gender, why sex, why trans” I’m gonna be focusing on what reproductive and developmental biology are like for trolls, what gender is like for trolls, and what gender variance is like for trolls. So stay tuned!
1. I am not interested in doing Trans 101 here. There are other resources for that. If you can see this you can probably just as easily start googling.
2. Just as much as “Gender” is socially constructed, so is “Sex.” The various bits and bobs of our bodies that people consider to be sexed are nearly all irrelevant to how we go about assigning people into boxes at birth, because almost all of them are *invisible* to us. Only genitalia and the physical impacts of hormonal development during puberty are really obvious, and neither of those are binary, perfectly reliable or immutable (especially in this day and age).
And don’t even split hairs about that “perfectly”, either — rounding off the edge cases is erasing literally millions of people and all their experiences.
do you ever just start thinking about your best friend and how great they are and how, even if they can’t see it, you somehow know without a doubt that they’re one of the most incredible people you’ve ever met and it’s just like, they’re funny and cute and kind and beautiful and just so freaking important that you can’t even believe that you’re lucky enough to be friends with them??? i mean wo w
I’m sorry but your answer must be in the form of a question
dfab trans headcanons are all well and good don’t get me wrong i love me some dfab headcanons hell yes
but dmab ones are more important. transfeminine people are more important. prioritize them. if you write out a headcanon for ftm ron make sure to do something for agender parvati too. if you’re excited about sirius black binding, get just as excited about bigender hagrid putting flowers in their beard.
"but that’s just trying to be diverse on purpose!!" you protest. "let it come naturally, don’t force headcanons on people!!"
fuck yeah it’s trying to be diverse on purpose. that’s not a bad thing. and if you have to force yourself to love fictional trans girls then fucking do it. aggressively make space for our siblings. we forget them all too often.
rememberwhenyoutried replied to your photo “Waiting for the bus in the unusually cold weather by Seattle standards”
You are so cute always I may explode
noooooo I’m pretty sure exploding is bad for you
lianaoftheveil replied to your photo “Waiting for the bus in the unusually cold weather by Seattle standards”
IT IS SO COLD
It’s like flippin -5C right now wtf I don’t even know how to conceptualize that
but yeah I went coat shopping, because the one in that photo isn’t actually very thick
and now I am well equipped for any more bizarro Seattle winter weather
and also for visiting my girlfriends in Minnesota in another couple of weeks :-)